Exploring Mars at the nanoscale: Applications of transmission electron microscopy and atom probe tomography in planetary explorationOPEN ACCESS 

L. Daly, M. R. Lee, P. Bagot, J. Halpin, W. Smith, S. Mcfadzean, A. C. O’Brien, S. Griffin, L. J. Hallis and B. E. Cohen

EMAS 2019 Workshop – 16th European Workshop on Modern Developments and Applications in Microbeam Analysis 19-23 May 2019, Trondheim, Norway
Published online: 05 August 2020


“The upcoming Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission aims to deliver small quantities of Martian rocks to the Earth. Investigating these precious samples requires the development and application of techniques that can extract the greatest amount of high quality data from the minimum sample volume, thereby maximising science return from MSR. Atom probe tomography (APT) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) are two complementary techniques that can obtain nanoscale structural, geochemical and, in the case of atom probe, isotopic information from small sample volumes. Here we describe how both techniques operate, as well as review recent developments in sample preparation protocols. We also outline how APT has been successfully applied to extraterrestrial materials in the recent past. Finally, we describe how we have studied Martian meteorites using TEM and APT in close coordination in order to characterise the products of water/rock interactions in the crust of Mars – a key science goal of MSR. Our results provide new insights into the Martian hydrosphere and the mechanisms of anhydrous-hydrous mineral replacement. In light of the unique results provided by these tools, APT and TEM should form a crucial part at the culmination of a correlative analytical pipeline for MSR mission materials.”